03 December 2019

Infrastructure Services Committee November round-up

A detailed discussion surrounding flood protection schemes, a natural heritage strategy, electric vehicle charging fees and a deposit return scheme consultation were among matters considered at the latest meeting of the Infrastructure Services Committee on Thursday, November 28.

Committee hears presentation on East Grampian Coastal Partnership

Ian Hay and Crawford Paris from the East Grampian Coastal Partnership gave an overview of the work of the project which covers an area from Fraserburgh to East Haven in the south of Angus.
A key element of the partnership’s work is the Turning the Plastic Tide Project which, since its creation in August 2018, has undertaken 61 beach cleans, attracted more than 2,000 volunteers and removed 23.5 tonnes of rubbish from our shores. It has also worked with numerous schools and in 2019 alone has attracted some 1,800 primary and secondary pupils to undertake beach cleans. The team praised Aberdeenshire Council for its support of the clean-ups by way of services and plant.
Paying tribute to the phenomenal figures, councillors hailed the partnership’s tremendous work and thanked all those who had participated in the beach-cleans to-date.

Homes at Blackhill of Culbirnie, Banff refused

Plans for 10 new houses near Banff as part of an enabling development for a rehabilitation centre specialising in brain injuries, spinal problems and other trauma were refused. The Planning Service said the proposals at Backhill of Culbirnie did not comply with Policy B4: Special development areas of the Aberdeenshire Local Development Plan 2017 as insufficient evidence had been provided to demonstrate compliance with any of the relevant criteria. Specifically, it had not been adequately demonstrated that the overall public benefit would outweigh any negative impact of the development.
Committee heard from the applicant and a representative before discussing the matter at length. Cllr Colin Pike, seconded by Cllr John Cox, motioned to defer consideration of the application to allow the applicant to submit robust data behind the proposed development and details of the rehabilitation facility. Cllr Peter Argyle, seconded by Cllr Martin Ford, raised an amendment to support the officer’s recommendation to refuse with a clear message that the applicant should submit a fresh planning application which would include all the information that the planning service would require. The amendment was carried by ten votes to four.
Homes at Meadowhill, Strichen refused

Planning permission in principle for the creation of three new houses on land adjacent to The Meadowhill at Strichen was refused. The Planning Service said the application was in conflict with the Aberdeenshire Local Development because the capacity for the addition to an existing housing cluster had already been met. It also said the formation of the site would not be in keeping with the character of the existing development group. After hearing from the applicant and general debate, Cllr Martin Ford, seconded by Cllr Marion Ewenson, moved to support the officer’s recommendation to refuse. Cllr John Cox, seconded by Cllr Iain Taylor, moved to endorse the decision of the Buchan Area Committee, with authority to grant to be delegated to the Head of the Planning and Environment Service. The motion to refuse was carried after a 10-4 vote.

LDP Main Issues Report submissions considered

Councillors considered the views of the Formartine Area Committee with regards to two Ellon sites it wished to see included within the Aberdeenshire Proposed Local Development Plan 2021. A representative from CHAP Homes also gave evidence supporting the inclusion of sites FR063 and FR064. Following consideration, councillors upheld the ISC’s original decision back in October not to recommend inclusion of the bid sites.

Natural Heritage Strategy approved 
A new three-year strategy focusing on Aberdeenshire Council’s efficient and effective management of the natural heritage was welcomed and approved by councillors. The structured approach to service delivery covers a wide range of aspects including natural heritage work in relation to development management, tree protection, site management, biodiversity and partnership working. It also outlines the key aims and objectives of the council’s environment team with a focus on protection, enhancement, promotion and continuous improvement.

A96 petition noted by committee

Councillors heard from Dr Astley Hastings of the University of Aberdeen’s Institute of Biological and Environmental Science who had submitted a petition against plans to dual the A96. The petition - ‘Take Action on Climate Change Emergency: Not to Dual Entire A96’ – was debated at length by councillors. Cllr Peter Argyle, seconded by Cllr David Aichison motioned to note the petition and refer it directly for serious consideration by the Scottish Government. Cllr Martin Ford, who did not receive a seconder, moved to instruct a report from the Head of Transportation which should express the view that there was an incompatibility between the Scottish Government’s A96 Dualling Project and the Scottish Government’s Climate Change Targets.

North East Flood Risk Management Plan (2016 – 2022)

Councillors formally adopted the five preferred options for flood protection schemes which will now be submitted to SEPA for national funding prioritisation. It was agreed back in 2016 that the four highest-ranking Aberdeenshire studies in its previous Local Flood Risk Management Plan – at Ellon, Inverurie and Port Elphinstone, Insch and Stonehaven Bay - should be taken forward in the 2016-2022 prioritisation planning cycle. Councillors also agreed at the time to progress the Ballater Flood Protection Study. After considerable debate in particular on the Stonehaven and Ballater schemes, and having heard from various community representatives who suggested various alternatives, the following options were approved:

Ellon - Option 7
Inverurie and Port Elphinstone - Option 5B
Insch - Option A1b (Area A), Option B5b (Area B), and Option C1 (Area C)

Stonehaven Bay Coastal – North Zone: Improve the existing defences and raise the existing wall immediately and adapt to a new sea wall when the residual life is exceeded; Central Zone: Raise existing wall and implement an adaptive beach recharge scheme immediately and replace Cowie defences (year 30); Harbour Zone: Manage the medium-term risk through Property Flood Resilience and construct new defences when the residual life of the current defences is exceeded (year 30). It was also agreed to endorse the views of the Kincardine and Mearns Area Committee to support taking action to address the flood risk in Stonehaven to achieve a 1/200 year flood protection level and to recognise the potential need for an increase in sea wall height as a result of projected sea level increases. It also asked that all defences at sea are maximised in order to ensure that the sea wall height is optimised at the lowest achievable level such that promenade need not be raised and that consideration be given to both the creation of an offshore reef to attenuate wave energy and effective use of fishtail groynes to both retain sediment and reduce wave action in the most exposed locations.

Ballater - Option 3A: Construction of 3.3km direct defences to protect Ballater comprising 1.32km earth embankments, 800m reinforced concrete structural walls with 1.5m glass walls plus 1km reinforced concrete walls constructed downstream of Royal Bridge protected for a 0.5% AEP (1 in 200yr Return Period Event), together with relocation of five properties. Cllr Peter Argyle, seconded by Cllr Ian Mollison moved to agree the preferred Option 3A, with a commitment that the council would enter into full dialogue with the community when the response from SEPA was received. Cllr Martin Ford, seconded by Cllr Colin Pike, moved to delay the submission of a bid, noting the low BCR, and lack of public support for the preferred bid for this round and to continue to work with the community regarding alternatives, especially soft measures for catchment management. The motion was carried after a 10-3 vote.

Recovery of costs for electric vehicle charging points

The committee agreed to introduce an equitable full-cost recovery for the use of the council’s electric vehicle charging points. The number of ‘charging events’ across Aberdeenshire in the last 12 months has risen to 25,000 compared to 17,000 in 2017/18. Councillors approved the recommended charge of £0.21 per kWh to allow for full recovery of costs associated with the operation of public EV charge points.

Transient Visitor Levy response

Committee discussed Scottish Government proposals for the introduction of a Transient Visitor Levy which will create a discretionary power for local authorities to apply a tax or levy on overnight visitor stays. Councillors debated a formal response to the consultation and agreed that whatever proposal is introduced in the fullness of time, it must provide the best possible deal for Aberdeenshire.

Deposit and Return Scheme responses

Councillors gave their support for the concept of a Deposit Return Scheme for plastic drinks containers. The Scottish Government is seeking to introduce a deposit return scheme (DRS) to increase the quality and quantity of materials captured for recycling and to reduce litter. Under the draft proposals, people will pay a small deposit of 20p when they buy a drink in a single-use container and then get the deposit back when they return it.

Litter Prevention Action Plan

Councillors welcomed the introduction of a new council strategy aimed at tackling litter and fly-tipping in the region. Aberdeenshire Council’s Litter Prevention Action Plan will be introduced across all authority services and geographical areas. It follows the adoption last year of the new Code of Practice on Litter and Refuse (Scotland) (CoPLAR) which provides duty holders such as Aberdeenshire Council with practical guidance on fulfilling its duties under the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

Other matters
• Councillors agreed to host the KIMO International AGM and Conference 2020 in Banff and Macduff
• A Mid-Year Performance Monitoring Report providing an update on progress in
• relation to actions, performance and outcome indicators supporting the Council Plan Priorities 2017-2022 was noted
• A three-year dredging contract was approved for North-east harbours the council operates at Banff, Macduff and Stonehaven to provide safe navigation for users
You can see all the reports to the committee on the Aberdeenshire Council website.
The meeting was webcast and you can view a recording of proceedings here http://bit.ly/NovemberISC